The nature of the customer
For example, “next-day service won’t cut it at a refinery or power plant that needs its security up and running,” Bozeman said.
There is a major down-side to not offering contracts. “If you are not offering service, you look more like a contractor who puts something in and leaves,” Bozeman warned. “In the integrator business, you must offer things like software upgrades, dial-in or on-site service.”
“The contract should provide for the customer to test the system regularly, typically weekly,” Carlisle said, adding that the dealer should schedule testing of the system at least annually, perhaps more frequently depending on the customer’s needs and risks.
While Advance Technology’s contracts offer the standard parts, labor and maintenance verbiage, the company has gone a giant step beyond that. They include proactive managed services and remote support in all of their agreements.
Carlisle draws a distinction between national and local integrators and their contracts. “With national security businesses, the contracts really vary from state-to-state, because each state’s law is unique as far as what language to use, what font size in type, etc.,” she said. “But, within a state, most security businesses have form contracts for monitoring, installation and leases.”
The new contract offering from Advance Technology came as the result of a post-sale, “handshake” meeting with a satisfied customer who loved their new camera system. When the sales rep went into the control room, he immediately noticed one camera was out. It was a brand-new system. “That sparked our proactive service offering,” Simopoulos said.
“There are engineers in our office who provide proactive support for video, patient monitoring and other services,” Simopoulos said. “Our engineers are always checking for specific anomalies.” Not only do they check that all devices are online, they also check camera focus, hard-drive function and that recording devices are working.
Put specifics in writing
Depending on the application, that may mean daily, weekly or monthly monitoring of all devices. Advance guarantees one-hour remote service (thanks to IP and managed switches, remote diagnostics is easier to provide) and same-day on site technician services. “Usually, it’s about four hours,” Simopoulos said.
For advanced life safety applications and other situations where a threat is known (for example, a jewelry store) or a residential customer who wants a security system because an ex has tried to harm him/her before, the alarm company really must provide a heightened level of service, Carlisle said.
This means offering a comprehensive security assessment, state-of-the-art equipment and documenting everything that was offered to the customer and what the customer declined.
“You should also take careful and thorough notes on the location, manufacturer and model number of all equipment installed and document all testing of the alarm system that was completed,” Carlisle advised.
“Spell out the exceptions,” Ladd urged integrators. There are many instances. What happens when a door contractor provides electric locks? Does the security integrator cover service? Or does the door guy?
“Software licenses are another item,” Ladd said. “They are a different item than software support. And how do you handle warranties?” Alarm panels, for example, have one-year warranties. A camera may be covered for three or five years.
Whatever the contract states, it is vital that the document is in line with the best practices that the company has established for itself and its customers.
The contract has to spell out what is meant by “four-hour response.” Is that getting a truck on-site or is it getting a call-back from the service department? Does a remote fix count?
Contracts must also define how the integrator is paid. “The best contracts have pre-negotiated rates,” Ladd said.